Tag Archives: london

Hello, Harry Potter!

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As I mentioned previously in my English/Paris summer vacation, I paid a visit to the incredible Harry Potter Studio Tour near London, and I took a ridiculous amount of photos so I made it into its own post! I am avid Harry Potter fan, but I will admit, I haven’t read the books. (I’m not a huge fan of books! Sorry!) I think I will tackle them one day, but I do love every single movie in the saga. Alan, on the other hand, actually had never seen the movies or read the books (Brit fail!) so I tried to get in as many of the movies as we could in our free time in the UK before we went. While we didn’t get to finish it, Alan found the tour to be quite impressive even for the non-fan.

The tour has only been open for about 2 years, but it is so insanely popular that bookings must be done online only through their website and bookings fill up incredibly fast. As I was trying to get days off to extend my holiday, I kept having to change plans because every time I went to book, the days I had available were already full!

Upon entrance, you are greeted by three amazing Wizard’s Chess pieces!

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The introduction starts with a seat in a small theater, and a short video with Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint addressing fans and then the screen lifts to the entrance of Hogwarts. Every inch of the tour was just as magical as it seemed to be on the screen!

The ceiling is absent because it changes and so is designed with computer graphics.

The ceiling is absent because it changes and so is designed with computer graphics.

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Once you left the dining hall, you were free to roam through the tour yourself. It roughly takes about 3 hours!

Some of my most favorite bits were the costumes!

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It was amazing to see how the sets looked quite small in comparison to on the big screen.

Boy's dormitory in Griffindor

Boy’s dormitory in Griffindor

Griffindor common room

Griffindor common room

There was also an array of random props and artifacts gathered around.

Collection of wands

Collection of wands

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Dumbledore’s office:

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Throughout the tour, there were various supplementary video screens full of information and cool secrets. For example, the various moving portraits found throughout the school include some of the crew and staff!

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And prop crews found it entertaining alone just trying to fill the mysterious jars and vessels you see in Snape’s potion making classroom.

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Chamber of Secrets!

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The Weasley home

The Weasley home

Deatheater costumes!

Death Eater costumes!

Various prints and candy boxes – a graphic designer’s dream:

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Dolores Umbridge's very pink and very kittied office

Dolores Umbridge’s very pink and very kittied office

 

 

Tasting butterbeer and hanging out outside Harry's house!

Tasting butterbeer and hanging out outside Harry’s house!

On display were an amazing array of the various prosthetics and other makeup/masks…

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And of course, Diagon Alley itself!

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This smaller scale model of Hogwarts is used when filming the building from a distance!

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And of course, can’t leave until we find a wand…

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Maybe this one?!

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Lastly, I was a sucker and hopped on a broom, and YES, I bought the photos… there was a video, but I opted for just the photos. 🙂

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Summer 2014 Part 2: England and Paris

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Continuing from Part 1 of my eventful summer!

Back in Guildford, we spent a peaceful afternoon with a picnic and seeing more green than I have ever seen in one day; Dubai is definitely a concrete jungle, but even my hometown of Phoenix lacks this much green!

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He took me to a place called “Silent Pond”.. while pretty, I’m not sure what its purpose is…

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We paid a visit to the amazingly astonishing Harry Potter Studio Tour, but it is so magnificent, it’s getting it’s own blog post and I will link it here when it’s finished! And here it is!

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And at one point, I forced Alan to find a Chipotle, it’s my new mission to visit one in every country they’re in… (Yes, we did get to Chipotle in Paris but no pics! And I also have been in Frankfurt, too!)

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The weather had been so sunny and warm that we decided to have a barbecue at the end of the week on Friday, as it was near the end of our summer vacation and a good time to gather all of our friends around. As luck would have it, it rained all day, up until the late afternoon when we started to barbecue! Good ol’ English weather. Our friend Shaddy that we know from Dubai was staying in Southampton studying, so we invited him over.

Is he doing it right?

Is he doing it right?

Alan, Shaddy, and Alan's brother Tom

Alan, Shaddy, and Alan’s brother Tom

Alan’s friend, Alex, had asked me to bring graham crackers so that we could make authentic s’mores. FYI, a s’more consists of the said cracker, melted chocolate and slightly charred marshmallows. It’s a staple for American campfires. To be honest, I had never even had a s’more myself! But I happened to be on a US layover, so I picked up a few boxes and yes, I did pack it in my suitcase and take it to England.

I actually had to check Youtube for proper s'more preparing techniques...

I actually had to check Youtube for proper s’more preparing techniques…

Alan tries his very first s'more.

Alan tries his very first s’more.

Oh, did I mention we had more clotted cream, jam and scones?! Seriously, this is the best invention to come out of England. If you haven’t had it, have one PROPERLY! But I know the debate is on… I like my cream first, and THEN the jam.

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On the weekend, the family headed back out to Southampton for Alan’s cousin’s wedding. This one was a change from the Indian wedding, set in a barn with a nice, DIY vintage feel. It was complete with Pimm’s Cup during cocktail hour and a “wedding breakfast”. What is a wedding breakfast? Well, it’s simply the first meal the couple has as a married couple, thus the use of “breakfast” since it’s typically the first meal of the day. You weird Brits!

My second fascinator! My first was worn to the Dubai World Cup

My second fascinator! My first was worn to the Dubai World Cup

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Somewhere in the middle of all this British-ness, Alan and I spent a few days in Paris because.. well, why not?

I was back in Dubai in between Brit visits, so I flew to Paris and Alan flew from London to meet me. We booked our very first AirBnb.com apartment. It was very cheap and in a good location, and the host was very kind, but the apartment was literally just a box with a bed, kitchen and toilet. But it got the job done. We spent most of our time seeing Paris.

I’d been to Paris a few times before, but this was a first for Alan. So we hit up the usual spots, although no one told me how unbelievably HOT Paris summers are, and we became quite exhausted quickly. But we powered through!

First stop was of course the Eiffel Tower. I’d already been twice, but never climbed it. I couldn’t book an elevator ride because it was sold out all summer, but we were “pleasantly” surprised to find that you could climb to the second level via stairs. I wasn’t at all ecstatic at the thought of stairs, but I knew we shouldn’t miss this chance to climb it.

The first floor.. this made my legs feel like jelly!

The first floor.. this made my legs feel like jelly!

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The line below for the elevator. I believe the wait was 3 hours. We completed our tour in less than that.

The line below for the elevator. I believe the wait was 3 hours. We completed our tour in less than that.

Alan’s a personal trainer, so this was just like no big thang to him, but I needed lots of rest and breaks!!! And can you believe we climbed….

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SIX HUNDRED AND SIXTY-NINE STEPS WHAT?! And that’s only to the second floor. And note when I say “second floor” it’s actually about 38 stories above ground!! It marks about halfway up the tower.

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And of course, we had to do our usual pictures…

Our #elfie... no explanation needed

Our #elfie… no explanation needed

Love this photo so much, we are using it as our Save The Date cards!

Love this photo so much, we are using it as our Save The Date cards!

Next, we paddled on over to the Louvre Museum, hitting up only a few exhibits since we were a bit strapped for time. The ancient Egypt exhibit is always my favorite!

Cat mummies!

Cat mummies!

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Later that evening, we ventured down to the world famous Moulin Rouge! Of course I love the movie, but it was just a must-do on our short Paris trip. It’s too difficult to get there while on a layover, so it was the only chance I had. The tickets were a steep 100EUR without drinks, so we snagged them, but somehow were must have been mysteriously upgraded to a table right by the stage and a bottle of bubbly!

Unfortunately,  I couldn’t take any photos of the show (Understandably so, but I snuck one in!) but it was incredible! I loved that every routine had a theme (I think my favorite was the Egyptian/Asian one.. I couldn’t pinpoint it, but it ended with the stage floor opening up to a huge tank of water with three HUMONGOUS snakes and a girl jumping in to join them!). I would have loved to see more of the traditional can-can dance, as it was only their final number, but I highly recommend checking it out. Honestly, I don’t care if people say “Even Parisians don’t go to the Moulin Rouge!” it’s quite a spectacle and if you can afford it, get a bottle of bubbly!

You guessed it... our #meflie

You guessed it… our #meflie

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The next day, we ventured out to Disneyland. If anyone knows me, they know I love Disneyland! But I have only been to the one in Anaheim so far, so this was quite exciting. Although I mostly enjoyed our day at Disney, there were loads of downsides. Firstly, it was extremely hot. It must have been about 90F and in the wait tunnels there was absolutely no AC or fans, and the temperature must have been climbing to 100F in some of them. Secondly, the staff weren’t really into it. I have heard they often have disputes over the working conditions and pay (although didn’t I just read that Air France pilots are on strike? Again? It seems to be a common thing in France…) and don’t really adhere to the “magic” that makes Disney what it is. Thirdly, some of the sister rides were a bit disappointing, like for example, the Indiana Jones ride in Anaheim is probably one of the best rides in that park, but in France, it’s a silly little outdoor coaster. But to make up for it, Space Mountain: Mission 2 in France is by far THE BEST ride of both parks, even outdoing its predecessor.

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Sadly, I lost those clip in Minnie ears on the Indiana Jones ride! 😦 They don’t sell them anymore.. in fact, they were for babies!

And because I have waaaay too many photos, here are the thumbnails, just click on them for the larger size:

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The closing show was absolutely spectacular! They used Sleeping Beauty’s castle as a screen and projected images onto it. Amazing.

On our last day, we paid a dutiful visit to the Ponts des Arts bridge to do what every crazy couple in love does… seal their love for eternity on the Love Lock bridge! I know they’ve been removing locks as of late to preserve the bridge, so I was thoughtful and brought a small lock.. I was shocked to see people STILL putting ridiculous massive locks on the bridge.

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Here’s me throwing the key into the River Seine…

We spotted some awesome street art…

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And last but not least, picked up an appropriate souvenir from Thomas Sabo…

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And that wraps up my pretty epic summer vacay! With the exception of the Harry Potter studio tour, which is coming soon! How was your summer?

Summer 2014 Part 1: England

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Wow, I am REALLY REALLY behind… I have just been super busy with my upgrade (I’m still in my probationary period), having been on leave a few times and planning a wedding with 8 months to go!

So I’ll break it down quickly what happened over the summer. Alan quit his job at the gym that hired him to move to Dubai, and with a partner, has started his own mobile fitness company, Universal Fitness. (Would be great if you could like them on Facebook! 🙂 So during Ramadan, he spent a month back home in the UK. I went there and back, I had two weddings to attend (one of my friend’s and one of his cousins’) but had to work in between. We also spent a few days in Paris! I took loads of pics, so I’ll try and post only my favorites, but that will be difficult..

If you’re interested, you can see what I did while on my Layovers In London.

Before we start, I was surprised to find this gem in Alan’s hometown, Guildford:

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Our first objective was the drive to Bath to attend the wedding of my friend Raksha, who was my batchmate. We joined our airline on the same day and became fast friends. She resigned about a year later, and we kept in touch. She is Indian-British and her now-husband is just British… so it was a fun mix to see. 🙂 I got a sari from a friend who no longer needed it, and I crafted the sari top myself. I basically bought a white cotton crop top, dyed it, and then hand beaded it.

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The ceremony was a traditional Hindu ceremony, about 2 hours long. Raksha looked like a Bollywood star!

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During the cocktail hour, Alan and I ventured into the Fashion Museum. The wedding was being held in the beautiful Assembly Rooms, and we had planned on visiting the Fashion Museum the next day, but it was so convenient to pay a visit while the couple were taking photos.

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I had to put my arms through the front and tie it over my sari!

The reception was in a lovely assembly hall with ancient Roman detailing. It was an amazing mix of Indian and British culture.

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The next day, Alan and I spent an unusually sunny British day exploring the adorable little town that is Bath.

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Roman Baths

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Threw a UAE dirham coin into the bath! Wonder how many different currencies are in there..

Threw a UAE dirham coin into the bath! Wonder how many different currencies are in there..

We ventured around the city and stumbled upon a beautiful little park.

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We then went completely British and paid a visit to the very busy and very famous Sally Lund’s tea house for afternoon tea, appropriately, in the Jane Austen room:

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We started with their famous “bunn” with smoked salmon, and finished with amazingly delicious clotted cream, jam and scones!

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On the drive over, we had accidentally come across STONEHENGE! It’s so busy these days that we have to book in advance, so we booked once we got into Bath for the next day. So we stopped by to check out one of the Seven Wonders of the (World) Medeival Mind, Stonehenge.

Our #stelfie... yes, our Stonehenge Selfie

Our #stelfie… yes, our Stonehenge Selfie

The Stonehenge Exhibition and shuttle service was built in December of 2013 to help preserve the monument, as well as offer additional information. Up until then, you used to be able to drive right up to it. I think this way makes it a bit more of a meaningful visit.

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We drove up to London for the afternoon to check out the Natural History Museum:

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Our #trelfie!! Yes, can you see a trend here?

Our #trelfie!! Yes, can you see a trend here?

To be continued in Part 2 coming soon!

Layovers in London

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I’ve always had a thing for the British, and I can’t explain it. Some people say, “Oh, it’s because you’re American, they all have a thing for the British.” And of course, the Brits will argue that its because they taught us everything we know. I think it might be the Spice Girls that invaded my childhood to blame or maybe it’sjust those sexy accents (everyone sounds intelligent with a British accent!). Maybe it’s that irresistable Prince Harry.. I do have a thing for gingers…

Our airline flies to both London Gatwick and London Heathrow, and we have many flights a day to both locations. Since I’ve been online, I have been to London many times, so this entry will include all layovers there so far. I mentioned on my About page that I’d meant to start this blog when I started the job, so this is all playing catch up.

After about 2 months of training, we newbies are put online – but first we take an observatory trip on each operative aircraft – one on an Airbus and one on a Boeing. These are typically short trip so we can see and feel everything in action. After those two flights, we start as a REAL cabin crew!

My first operation and layover was to London Gatwick in October of 2010. Any U.K. destinations tend to have a reputation of being very busy, and this flight was no exception. I was lucky to have been rostered with my classmate and one of my best friends, Raksha, who happened to be from London (and lived just minutes from Gatwick). Of course the two of us were excited to share this experience together – except that being the most junior on the crew, we were stuck operating doors directly across from each other… we were hoping to have someone senior opposite ourselves in case we needed help.. talk about the blind leading the blind!

Anyway, on the layover, I tagged along with Raksha as her boyfriend came to pick us up from the hotel and surprise her parents at home. It was a touching experience; one I’d never get to have because my airline didn’t fly direct to my home town (the closet was LAX, which is still a 6 hour drive home to Phoenix). After the tears dried up and the short stories were exchanged, I was treated to a local London delicacy – yes, KFC – and I borrowed Raksha’s old bed for a quick nap before we had to split. I met up with my buddy Hollie, a friend I’d made in my game journalist days. We’d first met in Las Vegas while attending CES (Consumer Electronics Show) and again at PAX (Penny Arcade Expo in Portland, OR, USA) so it was exciting to finally meet her on her turf. We caught up over sushi and shared a few drinks at an Irish pub in China Town (go fig, the two phenomena that seem to occur EVERYWHERE in the world.. so why not together?)

On my next trip to London, we checked out a bar near the hotel called The Pheasant Bar with some of the crew. It was crew members’ birthday (fellow American) so even though I’m a wimp to the cold, and walking even 10 minutes in the British cold in late November, I braved it to be a team player.

I made it out the next day to meet up with another friend, Ollie, who I’d also met in Las Vegas (AND rhymes with HOLLIE!) for brunch. Strange how random encounters can turn into international friendships. But that’s one of the amazing parts of this job – it makes facebook friends from all around the world a lot more tangible.

The next trip, I decided to play tourist. I joined a few other girls from the crew and we spent far too much money to freeze our asses off atop those lovely double decker tourist buses. And, you know, did the typical tourist thing. Froze our asses off and took pictures of everything.

We hopped off, grabbed some Mickey D’s (because I’m a disgusting American), took some snaps of Big Ben, and then passed through onto Buckingham Palace on the way back to our hotel. It was a windy yet eventful little trip, despite the fact that we had arrived in the late afternoon and tried to squeeze in a bit of sightseeing.